Culture on My Mind – Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Culture on My Mind
January 31, 2020


This week, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is on my mind.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars fills in the gap between the last two installments of the prequel trilogy. I had a few issues with both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but this series helped to smooth things a bit. It doesn’t make those two films perfect by any means, but it helps. It also gave me Ahsoka Tano, one of my favorite complex characters in the Star Wars mythos.

The show started with a theatrical release of the first few episodes in August 2008. On its own, that movie isn’t particularly good, but the series was phenomenal. It ran from 2008 to 2013 on Cartoon Network, then had a limited revival in 2014 on Netflix. Series supervising director Dave Filoni worked with George Lucas to understand the heart and soul of Star Wars, making this series one of the purest expressions of the franchise in the period between the prequel and sequel trilogies.

If you haven’t had the chance yet, I wholeheartedly recommend the series. If anything, start with the first season, then watch the theatrical movie before proceeding into the rest.

The show finally wraps up with the seventh season, which premieres on Disney+ on February 21, 2020.


Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 31

January 31, 2020
Day 31 of 366


January 31st is the thirty-first day of the year. It is Independence Day in the Republic of Nauru, the island nation in Micronesia that gained independence from Australia in 1968.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Backward Day, National Hot Chocolate Day, Inspire Your Heart with Art Day, and National Big Wig Day. The last one is typically observed on the last Friday in January.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1846, after the Milwaukee Bridge War, the towns of Juneautown and Kilbourntown unified to create the City of Milwaukee in Wisconsin.
  • In 1862, Alvan Graham Clark discovered the white dwarf star Sirius B, a companion of Sirius.
  • In 1865, the United States Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to abolish slavery. It was ratified by the states that December.
  • In 1872, Western novelist Zane Grey was born.
  • In 1902, actress Tallulah Bankhead was born.
  • In 1919, Jackie Robinson was born. He was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball during the modern era.
  • In 1930, 3M began marketing Scotch Tape.
  • In 1934, writer Gene DeWeese was born.
  • In 1950, President Harry Truman announced plans to develop the hydrogen bomb.
  • In 1958, Explorer I, the first successful American satellite, detected the Van Allen radiation belt.
  • In 1960, comics writer and screenwriter Grant Morrison was born.
  • In 1971, the Apollo 14 mission launched. Over nine days, astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell successfully conducted scientific experiments and landed on the lunar surface.


In 1961, Ham the Chimp traveled into outer space on MR-2, part of Project Mercury. He was the first hominid to travel into space.

Ham’s name was an acronym for the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center, the laboratory that prepped him for the mission, located at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. He was also named in honor of the laboratory commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton “Ham” Blackshear.

Ham was born in Cameroon (then known as French Cameroons) in 1957. He was trapped and sent to Florida where he was purchased by the United States Air Force. He ended up at Holloman in 1959. He was selected for the space mission out of a pool of 40 chimpanzees, and he was only known as “No. 65” until he successfully returned to Earth.

The big difference between Ham’s flight and other primate flights to that point was that Ham was not merely a passenger. His solo flight led directly to the Freedom 7 mission by Alan Shepard in 1961. Ham was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 31, 1961 and flew for 16 minutes and 39 seconds. The capsule experienced a partial loss of pressure, but Ham’s flight suit protected him. The only injury was a bruised nose.

Ham transitioned to the National Zoo in Washington, DC where he lived for 17 years. He then retired to the North Carolina Zoo where he died on January 19, 1983.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 30

January 30, 2020
Day 30 of 366


January 30th is the thirtieth day of the year. It begins the commemoration of the Martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi. Related observances include Martyrs’ Day in India, the School Day of Non-violence and Peace in Spain, and the start of the Season for Nonviolence which runs from January 30th to April 4th.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Croissant Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1648, the Treaty of Münster and Osnabrück was signed, ending the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain.
  • In 1703, the Forty-seven rōnin, under the command of Ōishi Kuranosuke, avenged the death of their master by killing Kira Yoshinaka.
  • In 1835, the first assassination against a President of the United States was attempted. Richard Lawrence failed in his attempt to shoot President Andrew Jackson and was subdued by a crowd including several congressmen and the president himself. Lawrence was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of his days in asylums.
  • In 1847, Yerba Buena, California was renamed San Francisco, California.
  • In 1862, the first American ironclad warship, the USS Monitor was launched.
  • In 1882, Franklin D. Roosevelt, American lawyer and thirty-second President of the United States, was born.
  • In 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.
  • In 1937, actress Vanessa Redgrave was born.
  • In 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse.
  • In 1951, musician and Miami Vice staple Phil Collins was born.
  • In 1966, actress Daphne Ashbrook was born. She was a guest star on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and a Doctor Who companion.
  • In 1968, the Tet Offensive (The General Offensive and Uprising of Tet Mau Than 1968) was launched by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army against South Vietnam, the United States, and their allies. It was a campaign of surprise attacks against military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam and served to demoralize the United States forces and public.
  • In 1969, the Beatles staged their last public performance. It was held on the roof of Apple Records in London and was broken up by the police.
  • In 1972, British paratroopers opened fire on anti-internment marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland. Thirteen people died during the Bloody Sunday event, and another person died later from injuries sustained.
  • In 1974, actress Olivia Colman was born.
  • In 1975, the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was established as the first United States National Marine Sanctuary.


In 1982, the first personal computer virus code was written. It was authored by Richard Skrenta, was 400 lines long, and was disguised as an Apple boot program called “Elk Cloner”.

Elk Cloner spread using the Apple DOS 3.3 operating system using what is now known as a boot sector virus attack. It was attached to a game that, after the 50th time it was started, would blank out the screen and display a simple poem.

Elk Cloner: The program with a personality

It will get on all your disks
It will infiltrate your chips
Yes, it’s Cloner!

It will stick to you like glue
It will modify RAM too

Send in the Cloner!

If the computer was booted from an infected floppy disk, the virus would be copied to the computer’s memory. When an uninfected disk was inserted into the drive, the entire operating system was cloned to the disk, ready for transmittal to the next unsuspecting victim.

Richard Skrenta was a known prankster and wrote the virus as a joke. The virus did not cause deliberate harm, but it did overwrite the reserved tracks of disks without standard images.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



Timestamp #TW22: Something Borrowed

Torchwood: Something Borrowed
(1 episode, s02e09, 2008)


Something old, something new, something borrowed, something… goo?

Gwen is running late for her bachelorette (hen) party. She was in pursuit of a carnivorous shape-shifter when she was bitten on the arm. Jack shot the creature and Owen tended to her wounds before she went to celebrate.

When she wakes up the next morning, she’s suddenly pregnant. Almost full-term.


Jack and Owen assume that the shape-shifter passed its eggs along in the bite. They have a solution but it requires her to be down for several days. Unfortunately, today is her wedding day. She calls Rhys and tries to explain, putting Rhys into a tailspin.

As Rhys and Gwen try to come to a compromise, the team scrambles to keep the wedding on track while Owen performs a shape-shifter autopsy. Gwen tells Rhys that the wedding is all that matters today, but the question remains as to what to tell the families. They play like it was a planned surprise, but Gwen knows that, with their parents now planning for a grandchild, the news that she lost the child would be devastating.

Tosh arrives with Gwen’s new dress and gets hit on by the best man, but she handles herself like a pro. The women briefly discuss Tosh and Owen’s relationship before Tosh heads back downstairs. Meanwhile, Owen discovers a small problem: The shape-shifter is a Nostrovite, a species that mates for life and hunts in pairs. After fertilization, the female passes the eggs to the male for safekeeping and eventual impregnation. The dead alien’s mate is now hunting Gwen and is working her way through the wedding party.

The Nostrovite has also captured Tosh and best man “Banana Boat” in a black web. The rest of Torchwood Three dispatch to the wedding to tackle the problem.

Gwen continues to get ready for the wedding. To explain the pregnancy, she tells her father about Torchwood, but he doesn’t believe her. Gwen and Rhys get to the altar but Jack bursts in to stop the ceremony.

Owen and Ianto free Tosh and Banana, as well as finding the corpse the Nostrovite mangled earlier. One of the bridesmaids enters the room and, at the site of the corpse, runs away screaming. The bridesmaid tells everyone about the corpse so Jack orders Ianto to jam all of the phone lines.

Jack tells the assembled guests that he’s from Torchwood, surprising Gwen’s father and spooking the alien. Jack and Tosh give chase but lose her. The alien assumes Rhys’s mother’s form and takes Gwen’s mother hostage. Gwen distracts the alien long enough to ambush her, and after the Nostrovite flees, Gwen is rushed back to her room.

Owen, handicapped by his injured hand, briefs Rhys on how to use the singularity scalpel. Meanwhile, Gwen is ambushed by the Nostrovite in Jack’s form. Owen and Gwen empty their magazines into the creature, but it is seemingly unstoppable. Gwen and Rhys run for the stables while Owen faces the shape-shifter. He’s not very palatable in his undead state.

Rhys uses the singularity scalpel to extract the alien fetus. The Nostrovite bursts in and Rhys has a heroic moment, but he falls short as his chainsaw runs out of fuel. After a not-so-subtle curse word, Rhys gets covered in goo as Jack uses a BFG to end the threat.

Gwen and Rhys finally get married, alien goo and all. Owen and Tosh share the dance that she wanted as Jack wishes Gwen all the best on her honeymoon. As the guests fall asleep around them thanks to the wedding gift of Retcon, Jack offers the same to the newlyweds. Gwen states that there will be no secrets in their marriage.

The happy couple departs as Torchwood Three begins to clean up the mess. Later on, Jack returns to the Hub alone with a handful of confetti. He opens a box of photographs and reminisces over one in particular.

Jack was married once. The photo is from his wedding.


An enjoyable romp from start to finish, it only gets better by playing on character elements that have been building over this season, from Owen and Tosh’s relationship to Rhys and his distrust of Jack. Jack’s maudlin moment as he reflects on his interminable life is the icing on this (wedding) cake.

I also really love how Gwen acknowledges how the lies and omissions hurt her relationships, from the news of the spontaneous pregnancy to how she and Rhys plan to approach the next chapter in their lives together.

Stories that try to extract humor from unplanned pregnancies can often go wrong. This one struck me as well-crafted and engaging.


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: From Out of the Rain



The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 29

January 29, 2020
Day 29 of 366


January 29th is the twenty-ninth day of the year. It is locally celebrated as Kansas Day, commemorating the admission of the state to the country in 1861.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Puzzle Day and National Corn Chip Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1737, Thomas Paine was born. He was the author of Common Sense and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
  • In 1834, President Andrew Jackson ordered the first use of federal soldiers to suppress a labor dispute.
  • In 1845, “The Raven” was published in The Evening Mirror in New York. This marked the first publication with the name of the author, Edgar Allan Poe.
  • In 1860, Anton Chekhov was born. The Russian playwright and short story writer is known for Chekhov’s Gun, the dramatic principle that requires that every element in a narrative be necessary and irreplaceable and that everything else be removed.
  • In 1863, a detachment of California Volunteers led by Colonel Patrick Edward Connor engaged the Shoshone at Bear River, Washington Territory. The altercation resulted in the deaths of hundreds of men, women, and children. It would become known as the Bear River Massacre.
  • In 1886, Karl Benz patented the first successful gasoline-driven automobile.
  • In 1907, Charles Curtis of Kansas became the first Native American U.S. Senator.
  • In 1940, actress and author Katharine Ross was born.
  • In 1945, Tom Selleck was born.
  • In 1959, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty premiered.
  • In 1964, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered.
  • In 2006, a 39-cent stamp is released in the United States featuring Hattie McDaniel. She was depicted in the dress she wore in 1940 when she became the first African-American actress to accept an Academy Award.
  • In 2018, Black Panther premiered. Among several other accolades and records, it was the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination and the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to win an Academy Award.


In 1980, the Rubik’s Cube made its international debut at the Ideal Toy Company in Earl’s Court, London.

The cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik. After the 1980 sale to the Ideal Toy Company, it won the German Game of the Year special award for Best Puzzle.

The original cube had six faces, each covered by nine stickers. The stickers represented six solid colors –  white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow – and early cubes didn’t have an established pattern so the position of each color varied from cube to cube. Modern versions have a standardized pattern – white is opposite yellow, blue is opposite green, and orange is opposite red, with the red, white, and blue arranged in that order in a clockwise arrangement – and have evolved from stickers to colored plastic panels to prevent peeling and fading.

In order to solve the puzzle, each of the cube faces must be a solid color. There are competitions and world records for various methods of solving the Rubik’s Cube, including speed-solving.

The cube was a cultural icon of the 1980s and still is popular to this day. It is the world’s top-selling puzzle game and best-selling toy.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 28

January 28, 2020
Day 28 of 366


January 28th is the twenty-eighth day of the year. It is Data Privacy Day worldwide, an observation designed to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Blueberry Pancake Day, National Fun at Work Day, National Kazoo Day, and National Plan for Vacation Day. That last one is typically observed on the last Tuesday in January.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1573, the Articles of the Warsaw Confederation were signed, sanctioning freedom of religion in Poland.
  • In 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is first published in the United Kingdom. Zombies would be added 196 years later.
  • In 1855, a locomotive on the Panama Canal Railway ran from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
  • In 1878, the Yale Daily News was published, becoming the first daily college newspaper in the United States.
  • In 1922, the Knickerbocker Storm occurred in Washington, DC. It was so named when the immense snowfall caused the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater collapsed and caused the city’s largest loss of life.
  • In 1936, actor, writer, and director Alan Alda was born.
  • In 1956, Elvis Presley made his first nationally televised appearance.
  • In 1965, the current design of the Flag of Canada was chosen by an act of Parliament.
  • In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff. All seven astronauts on board were lost. I commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the disaster in this post.


In 1958, The Lego company patented the design of its famous bricks.

Lego was born in 1932 when Ole Kirk Christiansen of Billund, Denmark started making toys in his workshop. The company was named in 1934 based on the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”. The company started making plastic toys in 1947 and two years later started into the interlocking bricks game with their Automatic Binding Bricks.

The interlocking bricks were based on the Self-Locking Bricks line from Kiddicraft, which had been patented in the United Kingdom in 1939 and released eight years later. Lego received a Kiddicraft sample from their injection-molding machine supplier.

By 1951, the plastic toys were around half of Lego’s output. By 1954, they were on the way to becoming a toy system after Christiansen’s son, Godtfred, talked to an overseas buyer in his role as junior managing director. The big catch was the fact that the bricks were limited in locking ability and versatility, so over the modern brick design was developed over the next five years. The ABS polymer design was patented in 1958 and is still compatible with bricks released today.

From there, the company continued innovating. They made the Duplo line in 1969, a design for younger children that basically doubled the dimensions of the standard Lego bricks. Minifigures were introduced in 1978 and became a highly-collectible staple of the toyline.

Lego’s popularity has reached many forms of popular culture including books, films, video games, and art. The system has also been used as a teaching tool for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. It also reached a major milestone in 1998 when it was one of the original inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 27

January 27, 2020
Day 27 of 366


January 27th is the twenty-seventh day of the year. It is the anniversary of the liberation of the remaining inmates at Auschwitz, including related commemorations.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Cake Day and National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. The latter is typically observed on the last Monday of January.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1302, Dante Alighieri was exiled from Florence.
  • In 1606, the trial of Guy Fawkes and other conspirators began. It ended with their execution on January 31st.
  • In 1785, the University of Georgia was founded, becoming the first public university in the United States.
  • In 1820, the Antarctic continent was discovered by a Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev.
  • In 1825, the path for the forced relocation of Native American tribes was cleared by the approval of the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. The relocation route became known as the “Trail of Tears”.
  • In 1832, English novelist, poet, and mathematician Lewis Carroll was born.
  • In 1880, Thomas Edison received a patent for his incandescent lamp.
  • In 1900, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy, was born.
  • In 1908, American journalist and publisher William Randolph Hearst, Jr. was born.
  • In 1921, actress Donna Reed was born.
  • In 1939, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning took flight for the first time.
  • In 1940, actor James Cromwell was born.
  • In 1943, the Eighth Air Force sortied ninety-one B-17s and B-24s to attack the U-boat construction yards at Wilhelmshaven, Germany. This marked the first American bombing attack on Germany.
  • In 1944, the 900-day Siege of Leningrad was lifted.
  • In 1956, actress Mimi Rogers was born.
  • In 1957, illustrator, director, producer, and screenwriter Frank Miller was born.
  • In 1965, actor Alan Cumming was born.
  • In 1967, astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in the Apollo 1 fire at Kennedy Space Center. I commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this tragedy in this post.
  • Also in 1967, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom signed the Outer Space Treaty in Washington, D.C. This banned deployment of nuclear weapons in space, and limited use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes.
  • In 1970, the American movie rating system modified the “M” rating to “PG”.
  • In 1973, the Paris Peace Accords officially ended the Vietnam War.
  • In 1976, Laverne and Shirley premiered on ABC.
  • In 1979, actress Rosamund Pike was born.
  • In 2003, the first selections for the National Recording Registry were announced by the Library of Congress.


In 1945, the Soviet 322nd Rifle Division liberated the remaining inmates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Auschwitz-Birkenau was a component of the larger Auschwitz complex that contained over 40 concentration and extermination camps during World War II. During the Nazi regime, the Auschwitz complex housed 1.3 million prisoners and murdered 1.1 million of them in the Holocaust.

At the time of the 1945 liberation, 7,500 prisoners and over 600 corpses we found. A collection of items were also found, including 837,000 women’s garments, 370,000 men’s suits, 44,000 pairs of shoes, and 7,000 kg of human hair. The Soviet war crimes commission estimated that these items belonged to 140,000 people.

Primo Levi, an Italian Jewish chemist who was in captivity during the liberation, noted the mood:

They did not greet us, nor did they smile; they seemed oppressed not only by compassion but by a confused restraint, which sealed their lips and bound their eyes to the funereal scene. It was that shame we knew so well, the shame that drowned us after the selections, and every time we had to watch, or submit to, some outrage: the shame the Germans did not know, that the just man experiences at another man’s crime; the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist, that it should have been introduced irrevocably into the world of things that exist, and that his will for good should have proved too weak or null, and should not have availed in defence.

During the four years of the Holocaust (1941-1945), 6 million Jews and 11 million other victims of persecution were murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

To commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the tragedy of the Holocaust, the day was designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/7 on November 1, 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held on January 24th to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation.

Countries around the world also observe Holocaust memorial days on different days.

The intent is to both remember those who were massacred as well as educating future generations of the horrors of the Holocaust.

To reject, in whole or in part, any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event.

To condemn religious intolerance, incitement, harassment, or violence based on ethnicity or religious belief no matter where they occur.

To paraphrase Resolution 60/7: To honor the courage and dedication shown by the soldiers who liberated the concentration camps and reaffirm that the murder of one-third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice.

In two words: Never again.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.